🔼The name Ishma: Summary
- Desolate, Desolation
- From the verb ישם (yasham), to be desolate.
🔼The name Ishma in the Bible
The name Ishma (or Jishma, as some translations have it) occurs only once in the Bible. He is mentioned in the Chronicler's genealogy of Judah, in relation to Elam, and Jezreel, Idbash and Hazelelponi, but it's not clear how this relationship works (1 Chronicles 4:3).
🔼Etymology of the name Ishma
The name Ishma probably comes from the verb ישם (yasham), meaning to be desolate:
The verb שמם (shamem) means to be desolate, devastated or abandoned. It usually describes a literal empty place but may also be used to describe a mental state, in which case it refers to being appalled.
Adjective שמם (shamem) means devastated or deserted. Nouns שממה (shemama), שמה (shamma), שממון (shimmamon) and משמה (meshamma) denote various forms and degrees of waste, devastation, horror or appalment.
Verb ישם (yasham) is a by-form of the previous and means the same, albeit with an apparent emphasis on dry and arid lands. Noun ישימון (yeshimon, or variants) refers to desolate regions and mostly describes deserts. Noun ישימה (yeshima) describes the mental equivalent (whatever that might be).
Noun שמים (shamayim) means heavens. It's a plural form of a non-existing singular word שמי (shamay), coming from an assumed root שמה (shama). Whether or not this word is formally related to the above, to the ancients the heavens were clearly known as a vast emptiness that filled the observer with existential horror.
Equally striking is the noun שם (shem), which means name or renown. This suggests that the ancients saw someone's empty head as the same howling infinite as empty space, and all formal knowledge of the whole of creation that a person might accrue equal to this person's name.
It's not clear how the letter א (aleph) got involved in this name but it may be due to a fancy Aramaic twist that someone figured this name needed.
For a meaning of the name Ishma, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Desolate and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Desolateness. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret our name but does list it under the verb ישם (yasham).